Hundreds of thousands of people across the country have some sort of adverse reaction to gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, spelt, kamut, oats, and triticale. This includes people who have a severe reaction to gluten that results in the body attacking the small intestine, called celiac’s disease. It can also include people who simply do not feel their best after eating foods containing gluten. Either way, a reaction to gluten can sometimes be very difficult to spot. Gluten sensitivity can manifest itself in many symptoms that you might not normally expect from a food related sensitivity. Additionally, the medical tests they use to determine if someone is sensitive to gluten only tests for one part of the gluten protein. There are five other parts that are overlooked during the medical testing that could cause some sort of reaction. Because of these two things, gluten sensitivity will often go undiagnosed, resulting in damage to your gut. Luckily, information on gluten sensitivity has been on the rise recently, so people are on the lookout for the signs and symptoms. If you find that you are questioning a gluten sensitivity in yourself or someone you know, take note of the following signs and symptoms.
Bloating – one of the most common symptoms!
Diarrhea, constipation, and smelly stools – occasional diarrhea and constipation is normal, but if it happens regularly, it may be cause for concern
Abdominal cramps – the single most common symptom!
Headaches/migraines – people who are gluten sensitive seem to be more prone to migraines than others
Fatigue – fatigue is so common, it is a symptom that is often attributed to causes other than gluten sensitivity
Skin issues – a recurrent red, very itchy rash could indicate gluten sensitivity
Emotional issues – depression, chronic irritability, or irrational mood swings
Trouble absorbing nutrients – this can lead to weight loss, or nutrient deficiencies such as iron-deficiency anemia
Neurological issues – balance difficulties, dizziness, and pain, weakness, tingling, or numbness in the extremities
Muscle and joint pains – your intolerance to gluten causes inflammation in your tissues, leading to pain and stiffness
If these signs and symptoms seemed familiar to you, you might now be wondering how you can tell you have a sensitivity to gluten. This process takes time because gluten can stay in the digestive tract for up to 3 days, and it may take weeks for the symptoms from gluten sensitivity to decrease in severity. With that being said, here are the steps you should take to determine if you might be sensitive to gluten.
Write down any of the above symptoms that you experience, whether regularly, or sporadically. Don’t try to explain these symptoms away by saying “I’m tired because I don’t sleep well, or my back hurts because I sit too much”. Just list the symptoms.
Remove gluten from your diet for 60 days. Be cautious with packaged food because they have tricky ways of sneaking gluten into their food. Use www.celiac.comas a great resource for finding foods that are gluten free.
After the 60 days is finished, look at your list of symptoms. If you find that none of your symptoms has decrease, gluten might not be your issue. However, if you do find that your symptoms have lessened since removing gluten from your diet, you might want to consider with your gluten-free diet. If you find yourself uncertain, go back to eating foods with gluten. If this results in the return of your symptoms, you are likely sensitive to gluten.
If you have a severe reaction to gluten, as in the case of celiac’s disease, it is important to stick to a gluten-free diet for life. If you have a less severe reaction, it is possible to heal and seal your gut, so that at some point in the future, you might be able to gradually reintroduce foods you’ve cut out of your diet without consequences